If nothing else comes out of this election cycle, I think it will turn out to be a watershed in how the media is viewed and acknowledged, at least in the United States.
By and large, the U.S. media has been revealed for the relatively tame, inefficient organ that they have allowed themselves to become. They have been completely – and utterly – outclassed by Wikileaks, who has relentlessly presented data which contradicts the story that has been presented to U.S. citizens, about how (by and large) things are pretty much okay and that the real point of the media is to act more and more as a sort of propaganda arm of the Government.
It is remarkable to think that we have fallen in only forty years from the heights of investigative journalism in Watergate to today, where this sort of journalism pretty much only occurs for “approved” sorts of things.
It has created a second conundrum of course: the Wikileaks documentation was all obtained by means which are considered illegal for you or I to practice as citizens. An even deeper conundrum occurs: the Wikileaks information has not (to date) been shown to be modified or made up. Tacitly, its validity has been verified, as no-one has offered facts to disprove it and in fact individuals have lost their jobs over it. And therein lies the most interesting of pictures: the institution called The Press, which is the Bill of Rights is guaranteed as a freedom, has turned out to bind its own freedom voluntarily and lost its relevance whereas Wikileaks, which has performed an effective crime, is freely distributing information.
Here, I think, is the relevant question: What would the Founders Say?
Would they decry an institution that has stolen information to make it freely available, information that (to date) shows the inner workings of an organization? Or would they decry the institution that has the freedom to operate but has abdicated its responsibility to become an arm of the government?
I am not the Founders and cannot respond for them. All I can legitimately say is that they had little patience with any group or organization that accepted the dictates of an authority that acted absolutely. If they saw it otherwise, they would have not enshrined such a right as a fundamental freedom.
Make no mistake: theft is wrong. But what has been revealed is little better – and in some cases rather worse – than the original taking of the information.
What does that mean for the American media? I think the ultimate outcome here is the almost default feeling that American media has simply lost all credibility, that they may be adequate as relating certain events but useless in terms of objectively assessing the events or even investigating events. From henceforth every time the question comes up, every time the media attempts to say “Behold our Brave Reporting”, someone will simply say “Where were you during the 2016 election?”
And most of the media will grimace, and sigh, and turn away.